Warehouse management has changed significantly in the last decade. The COVID-19 pandemic, increased consumer access to technology and broader demand for delivery mean companies like Amazon have seen a $12 billion jump in profit compared to pre-pandemic estimates.
But meeting the growing demand from warehouses is not easy. The sheer volume and speed of orders require digitally integrated solutions at all levels. Generous help from artificial intelligence is also needed to ensure that everyone’s orders arrive on time and as expected.
Fortunately, the future of warehouse technology has largely kept pace with demand. New headline-grabbing technology like autonomous forklifts reduce risk, improve efficiency and help warehouse managers implement the technology of the future.
Training for the future of warehouse technology
Business leaders will only be able to implement the future of warehouse technology if employees are properly trained to use, repair and improve the technology at their disposal. This may seem straightforward at first – employees in supply chain management have been retrained before – but learning how to make the best use of futuristic warehouse technology may require an entirely different approach to education and training.
While previous generations of warehouse workers may have learned their trade on the job, the next wave of employees may learn the tools of their trade in the classroom. This is because the future of warehouse technology has much more to do with the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and scheduling than manual stock management and inventory controls.
Increased access to STEM classes will be required to make the skill set leap possible. Fortunately, initiatives to make STEM classes available to rural Americans are gaining traction. Improved internet access means rural students ages 5-17 can take advantage of remote learning. Greater access to STEM puts the employees of the future in a great position to develop and implement the future of storage technology.
AI has revolutionized all stages of supply chain management. Supply chain specialists can now use massive amounts of raw data to predict and respond to events caused by pandemics, mishaps, and global events.
Additionally, AI technology has further improved the efficiency of warehouse operations far beyond what was thought possible 20 years ago. And the rise of AI in warehouse management is a natural progression in the industry. AI now plays a major role in warehouse automation, helping with organization, productivity, accuracy, and employee safety.
Switching to an automated service may seem like a hassle at first. But, as many warehouse clerks and distribution managers have discovered, most existing materials and equipment can be easily tracked using AI. Pallet racks, shelving, and vertical mezzanines can be accounted for through the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) programs that process data at speeds far exceeding human cognitive abilities.
Warehouse management used to be a fairly hands-on industry that required workers to manually transport and load shipments.
Today, the robotics that have followed “industry 4.0” are completing more of the heavy lifting. Today’s robotics can use new sensory data to mimic human vision and select the right package at the right time. Importantly, these robots (like drones) can scan faster than humans and access hard-to-reach places.
Much remains to be done, as robotics still needs human oversight to prevent malfunctions and prevent failures from derailing all operations. However, as AI develops, errors will become easier to predict and prevent.
An AI-led future is both promising and daunting. While technology like robotics and AI will undoubtedly improve the overall efficiency of warehouses and supply chain management, one question always arises: what if it goes wrong?
Most fears about AI and new technologies are unfounded: multinational storage companies don’t make decisions based on whims or incomplete data. However, warehouse management companies should not leave outages to chance and should take all reasonable steps to ensure that network outages do not occur.
Warehouses that use automation and artificial intelligence can reduce the risk of a network outage by regularly running internal and external scans on all hardware and software. Completing an internal scan is usually easy (checking routers, servers, and power supplies), but external scanning (ISPs, Internet gateways, cloud services, DNs) can be a bit more complicated.
Partnering with trusted providers is the easiest way to ensure external networks stay online. Multinational cloud-based services like those offered by Google and Microsoft rarely experience outages and offer more enterprise-grade diagnostics and support that can help businesses get their operations back online and running as quickly as possible.
The future of warehouse technology is largely driven by developments in AI. Machine learning programs make it possible for AI-driven robotics to work at a more precise and efficient pace. This points to a promising future in which storage costs are reduced and the speed of sorting, inventory control and deliveries increases.